DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

You met me at a very strange time in my life...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Darkmatters Review: Warcraft The Beginning


Warcraft: The Beginning (12a)

Dir. Duncan Jones

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review over at: The Observer

“Our hope is destroyed, there is nothing to go back too. Is war, the only answer?”

Welcome to Azeroth, a peaceful realm that has a big problem – the kingdom stands on the brink of war as its fair citizens’ face being invaded by a fearsome race of bloodthirsty orcs. No this isn’t a stealth fantasy Brexit campaign, this is Warcraft: The Beginning, the big screen adaptation of the hugely popular video game.

"Hey token female character - you come here often?"

First things first, Warcraft: The Beginning isn’t based on World of Warcraft, the huge online multiplayer nerd-em-up but rather mostly focusses on Blizzard’s first Warcraft game (Orcs & Humans) which helped shape the video game genre called RTS ‘real time strategy’ - where opposing players command virtual armies in battle against each other or a computer-controlled enemy. I know this because as I was an avid fan of the game on PC back in 1994, much to my wife’s disdain.

Video games have mostly not faired well when given the cinema treatment. Here the very credible Duncan ‘Moon’ Jones steps up to the challenge as director and whilst Warcraft: The Beginning won’t be for everyone – it is certainly a decent effort.

"Beware Orcs in wolves clothing"

The plot is an origin story – the epic tale of the first war between humans and orcs. The orcs, led by fierce and noble Chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan - Durotan (Toby ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Kebbell) must leave their world as it is dying. With Azeroth their refugee destination of choice and not much in the way of negotiation skills other than ‘kill’, this is bad news for the humans, dwarves, elves and other peaceful fantasy types.

But the humans aren’t weak, they have armies and the brave Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis ‘Vikings’ Fimmel), the Lion of Azeroth, the last true descendant of the ancient Arathi bloodline and knight champion to boot.

"I can see Cloud City from here"

Warcraft: The Beginning looks absolutely incredible, you can feel the ten years of geeky love that has been poured into creating the world and the inhabitants, backed up by seriously cool CGI and practical effects work deliver a treat for your eyes. The human soldiers look epic in their battle armour (a wonderful upgrade of the video game original). The orcs are marvellous creations who make The Lord of the Rings efforts look like pantomime bit players, especially Orc Shaman Gul'dan (Daniel 'The Man with the Iron Fists' Wu) who channels the horrifying Fel. The battles are furious and suitably exciting, squeezing quite a bit of fantasy violence into the 12a rating to boot.

But not all is so good.

The dialogue is as expected made up of high fantasy cliché tripe, fine once you acclimatise, but what is less forgivable is the acting. Whilst Ben Foster steals the show as the magic wielding Medivh, whilst everyone else seems to be in generic A.I. circa 1994 mode.

"He walks on the 'Fel' side"

Not a complete dud, fantasy fans should certainly check out this new beast on the block, just don’t be expecting a big screen Game of Thrones.

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööö

(3 - Fantasy eye candy of the geeky kind)...

Awesomeness öööö – Actually awesome in places and looks top notch

Laughs öö – Some mirth to be had

Horror öö – A little scary and violent at times

Spiritual Enlightenment öö – honour goes beyond human experience

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Darkmatters Review: Perfect Universe PS4



Perfect Universe

Developed by: Will Sykes Games

PS4

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Every now and then a game come out of nowhere, no hype, no fanfare and perfectly rocks your video gaming world… Perfect Universe is just such a game – a superb blast of quality indie fun that has an incredibly cool, pretty unique monochrome ‘hand drawn’ art style and a wonderful soundtrack.

Perfect World comes packing a bunch of different single player and mini multiplayer games – each of which are fun challenges which will keep you coming back to try and beat your high score / time and move the leaderboards or just beat your mates in sofa coop competition.


First up is Perfect Moon – a new kind of platforming fun which sees you collecting diamonds scattered around increasingly challenging stages. It’s a nice simple premise bouncing and free falling at a pleasing rate but the difficulty ramps up as you have to get to grips with gravity defying antics in order to complete level in as fast a time as possible. The initial stages see you just running and leaping to grab diamonds but before long there are multiple hazards introduced that include fiendish squashing devices, nasty cutter blades and evil spikes. As you successfully beat levels you unlock new challenges, it’s very satisfying and there are plenty of challenges to keep you going.

Then there’s Moon Life which is a real space oddity. You control a frog like alien called Mr. Legs, and you have to move the little fella which sounds easy but the catch being each Dualshock thumb stick controls separate legs so it’s quite a struggle initially to get him to do anything. The objective of the levels this time is to make Mr. Legs traverse the madcap courses and collect leaves, all the while with the clock ticking. It isn’t easy and will frustrate those with no hand/eye coordination, but there is joy to be found once you master the knack of making Mr. Legs do your bidding.


The third single player game is Starlight, which despite the name doesn’t see you shooting stuff in a twin stick fashion but rather flying a simple rocket with just a minimal control scheme i.e. thrust and turn…  This time its fireworks that need to be collected – be warned that holding down thrust is not the way forward, and some gentle technique is required. Starlight is a lovely addition and has the feel of pixel junk games given a hand drawn makeover.

Finally there’s Sports Day which is a brilliant investment for anyone who like that old school competition where you can take on up to three opponents (or just battle A.I. if you’ve got no mates). Moon Golf does exactly what the title suggests – you’ll be playing golf, on the moon. It’s a total joy even if you’re not into virtual golf. Simply pick your club – driver, iron or putter and adjust your aim to take into account the reduced gravity. Courses are presented in batches of three holes per course – and the dynamics include trying to sink your ball into a hole that is directly above you!? Moon Golf could be a stand alone title – if bulked up a little, I’ve sunk many hours into this one and it’s a great after pub multiplayer showdown.

"Three way space footie"

Also worth the price of the game on its own is Rocket Ball – think Rocket League in 2D from top down and played with rocket ships rather than cars. With games timed at just 99 seconds it’s a frantic battle to score and defend which works especially well in 2 vs 2 mode. Although there is a wicked 3 player alternative arena which has 3 goals and when you’re scored against both your opponents get a point.

Ever wanted to play volleyball on the moon? Moon Volley is for you, standard ‘Top Gun’ volleyball rules apply, serve and then your opponent has up to 3 hits to get the ball back over the net. It’s a frantic and fun distraction – using the planetary gravitational pull adds to the dynamic and pulling off a 5-0 victory is grin inducing.

Also good is Space Race, a standard rocket vs rocket race around a track where one bad corner can wreck your chances. I’d have loved a weapon pod option for this as it would then be a 2D Mario Kart in space but at least you can ‘nudge’ each other to good effect.

Balloon Pop sees Mr. Legs in action again in a crazy contest to (as the name suggests) pop balloons by touching them. It would be simple except controlling Mr. Legs is tricky so when competing with mates it can get into a huge free for all battle to try and be the first to 10 ‘pops’.


Finally, is Gravity Dodge, where you play a version of dodge ball in space. The zero / low gravity adds a nice dimension to the game.

The variety of games on offer are a brilliant value for money, some are obviously stronger than others but this is perfect wake up call for anyone who wants a different challenge or a fun local multiplayer session.

Conclusion

Perfect Universe is a great collection of games, which packs so much in that it should be a mandatory purchase for anyone – if only to have downloaded ready for when you have friends or family round and need to entertain them. Congrats to Will Sykes on a really accomplished package – and if you like the soundtrack as much as I do, you can even download the tracks from http://willsykesgames.com/. Enjoy.


Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö


(4 - My God it's full of stars)...



Monday, May 23, 2016

Darkmatters Review: X-Men Apocalypse


X-Men: Apocalypse (12a)

Dir. Bryan Singer

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Does it ever wake you in the middle of the night? The feeling that one day, they'll come for you? And your children?”

Since the dawn of civilization, we have had those walk among us who have incredible ‘beyond human’ powers. These mutants stem from an ancient godlike entity who could transfer his consciousness from body to body, assimilating the powers of those he takes over. His name is Apocalypse (Oscar ‘The Force Awakens’ Isaac), the first and most powerful mutant of Marvel's X-Men universe.

"Oscar Isaac has a word with his agent"

Virtually immortal and invincible, Apocalypse is awakened after thousands of years and immediately embarks on wiping out humanity. Only Raven / Mystique (Jennifer ‘Hunger Games’ Lawrence), Professor X (James ‘Filth’ McAvoy) and a team of young, inexperienced X-Men stand in his way.

Sounds good right? X-Men: Apocalypse is a return to the franchise of original director Bryan ‘The Usual Suspects’ Singer, it boasts a fantastic cast and serious budget, it is also the worst X-Men film to date. The plot is a horrible mess, which feels lightweight, muddled and overlong – it makes Batman v Superman look like the greatest superhero flick ever made in comparison.

"New X-team"

It’s hard to watch such a revered franchise making such a huge misstep as a big fan of the X-Men films. The biggest (of many) problems is bad guy Apocalypse himself, he’s a poorly realised villain who looks like he’s wandered onto set from a cheap Power Rangers show. Isaac is a superb actor but he’s totally hamstrung here by a terrible script and incomprehensible motivations. He’s over powered too but his powers come and go – one minute he can wipe out a room of enemies with a single look but when facing the X-Men he obliges each with an unmemorable one-on-one battle.

"Let's dance"

Then there are Apocalypse’s four disciples, made up of Magneto (the excellent Michael ‘Steve Jobs’ Fassbender who looks bored throughout), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben ‘EastEnders’ Hardy). Their purpose is hard to fathom other than being there for forced and wasted fights against the X-Men, it gets to the point where you start to feel bad for them as they obviously don’t want to be there.

 The only bright spot was seeing Quicksilver (Evan ‘Kick-Ass’ Peters) reprising his speedy antics but even this isn’t as fresh or as jaw dropping as in Days of Future Past. I don’t where the X-Men go from here but it would be tragic if Apocalypse was their last hurrah…

"Can I go home yet?"

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öö

(2 - Days of mediocrity present)...

Awesomeness öö – Limited bursts of actual 'super' action

Laughs öö – Amusing in places but not enough

Horror öö – Bit grim for a 12a in places

Spiritual Enlightenment -öö – false gods ahoy

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Darkmatters Review: Green Room


Green Room (18)

Dir. Jeremy Saulnier

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)


“We're not keeping you here, you're just staying.”


Prepare for a heavy duty dose of menace and bloodshed as Jeremy ‘Blue Ruin’ Saulnier unleashes potentially the best horror / thriller of the year. This is a full blooded, 18 rated, primal scream of the highest order.

"guns and bands"

Meet ‘The Ain’t Rights’ – a standard U.S. 4 piece punk band who are struggling to make ends meet, due in part to their reluctance to embrace social media. Pat (Anton ‘Star Trek’ Yelchin) is lead guitar, plus there are bassist Sam (Alia Shawkat), drummer Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) on vocals – none of them are particularly happy when they take a gig at an isolated backwoods club run by neo-nazi skinheads. Turns out they’re right to be worried…

"Boo!"

Things go very bad, very quickly after their set on stage sees them witnessing a murder and suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives as the devious club owner Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart) orders his men to ensure none of the band escape alive.

The cinematography is excellent throughout, with a tangible dread built up effectively through the kind of voodoo sense of threat which echoes Assault on Precinct 13 mixed with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

"get away any way you can"

Speaking of massacres, Green Room really doesn’t hold back with the body count or violent carnage. By making the bad guys unredeemable fascists it means that viewers are able to get behind the desperate actions the heroes have to go to in order to try and survive. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart though as the savagery on offer includes attack dogs, machetes, guns, knives and even fire extinguishers!?

The cast are convincing and goods value – pick of the bunch is probably plucky hostage Amber (Imogen ‘Need for Speed’ Poots), who inspires a climactic situation that will stay with you for some time after the credits roll. The Nazis are suitably nasty too, even the slightly reluctant Gabe (Macon Blair – who is a long term collaborator with Saulnier) has to fall in line with the execution plans.

"Fight to the finish"

Director Saulnier is definitely one to watch – after Blue Ruin and Green Room, will be interesting to see if his next film has a colour in the title, and on the showing here it is likely to be blood red.

Those looking for a jolt of hair raising violent excitement, Green Room is a brutal, brilliant and thrilling descent into hell.

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öööö

(4 - Grim but good)...

Awesomeness öööö – The tension builds to harrowing levels

Laughs öö – Some dark humour

Horror ööööö – Very strong violence and gruesome death

Spiritual Enlightenment öö – survival at what cost?




Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Darkmatters Review: Bad Neighbours 2


Bad Neighbours 2 (15)

Dir. Nicholas Stoller

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

Read the newspaper version of this review at: The Luton News

“Let’s do what parents do best, stop young people from having fun!”

Here we have perhaps the least needed sequel of the year. Bad Neighbours was a gross out blast of funny students vs grown ups neighbourly warfare, so Hollywood decided to reprise the exact same formula, literally the same jokes just replacing the hard partying boys with – wait for it – hard partying girls…

"the shirts are off..."

So this time we have homeowners and struggling parents Mac (Seth ‘The Night Before’ Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Rose ‘Spy’ Bryne) finding themselves up against a radical new college sorority of girls who have decided to move in to the old ‘Frat House’ next door. The timing couldn’t be worse as the couple are trying to sell their property to jumpy new buyers…

Also on hand is Teddy Sanders (Zac Effron) – the leader of the Frat House in the original film who this time gets caught up in both sides of the raucous escalating pranks and consequences.

Cue sex jokes, drug jokes, cussing and inappropriate behaviour, most of which feels a bit like a ‘not quite as good’ rerun of the original. Yes, you’ll laugh in a few places but Bad Neighbours 2 is wearyingly lazy and neither as shockingly gross or as genuinely funny as the original which is a shame for fans.

"girl power"

Kudos to the writer / director Stoller for trying to at least injecting some female empowerment and anti misogynistic messaging (perhaps trying to add some balance to the first film’s narrative). The sorority girls led by Shelby (Chloe Grace ‘Kick Ass’ Moretz) with her pals Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) call out the 'rapey’ culture frat parties and try to create a space for girls to be able to party how they want – without having to dress sexy for the boys.

Alas this good intentioned messaging isn’t followed through with enough conviction so it ends up feeling like a bit of a gimmick. The comedy is also diluted by the sombre sub plots about Teddy, who has struggled to adjust to adult life after college and the strain on his friendship with Delta Psi bro Pete (Dave Franco) who wants to move on with his life after coming out of the closet.

"evil lurks amongst them"

Overall Bad Neighbours 2 is an adequate low-brow comedy option, a limper follow up which really doesn’t warrant any further Neighbourly sequels.

Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:

öö

(2 - averagely average gross out comedy effort)

Awesomeness öö – less laughs than req'd

Laughs ööö – see above

Horror öö – some not for the squeamish scenes

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - party after life?

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